tv Equal Time PBS May 19, 2012 2:00pm-2:30pm PDT
freedom of religious expression is a right many exercise on a daily basis. what happens when the expression conflicts with the environment? >> i've been called a woman whose oppressed and gets beaten up by her husband. >> when a time and place for expression religion become hazy. we ask what are our rights and how can we protect them? we'll explore that issue right now on equal time. >> from san jose state university, you're watching equal time, exploring new issues each week. equal time to points of view. >> hello from the campus of san jose state university and welcome to this edition of equal time. i'm your host journalism school director bob rucker. in the united states people are
allowed to practice religion without conflict. the right to expression religion is not as simple as it may seem. as we report, some say they're suffering discrimination in an un-american way. >> just like any other american college student, she's a mayor at san jose state university and enjoys spending time with friends and family as well as playing music. she's an average college student and has to deal with something others may not. islam phobia. >> i've been called a woman whose oppressed and gets beaten up beamier husband every night even though i'm not married. >> she says these people come from those who don't understand islam. >> one of the biggest
misconceptions i hear about a muslim woman is they are forced to wear it. >> muslims make up just 1% of the population. >> i believe my body and appearance is valuable. not to me but in general. i believe by preserving my look and protecting my body than displaying it carelessly would only make me more, i believe it would big any identify -- dignify a woman. >> she works as a nurse's assistant but she did have the adjust her scarf for sanitation reasons. employers have to know they are followers of the faith before discrimination chargers can be prove.
>> even if you're practicing and you're wearing the scarf or going to the mosque, it shouldn't be an issue for you. living in america we have freedom and the right to express and be as we are and not be discriminated against. >> we'll show you how sometimes it's biblical to accommodate religious expressions in other environments like the work place or in jail.
welcome back. in some cases expressing religion may conflict with the environment. religious expressions may take a back seat to the concerns of safety. once again. >> religious expression may be a problem. people may be asked to remove their religious attire because it is simply policy. in an airport travelers undergoing security checks may be asked to remove any head coverings all together if the
transportation security administration decides there's a reason to do so. >> tsa is charged with that mission of making sure nobody gets through the line that has something on their person that could be a hazard. so they have to if they find a reason to inspect someone's head gear, they will do that, otherwise they open up them up to vulnerability. >> the san jose police department goes by the same policy. >> whether they're wearing religious attire or every day clothing, if we believe they're armed they will be removing it. >> inmates must put their request in writing. >> you're not asked what religion you are. if you were to get arrested you go through a whole procedure until they book you.
when you go to the house then you fill out a form to the chaplain and say i'm a muslim. >> an entire country, france, is enforcing a ban on people wearing their vail in public places. >> every story has several sides. you'll hear viewpoints when we come back. we'll sit down with a panel of experts in our studio when equal time returns.
welcome back. i'm going to give you a bit of a challenge before we do the introductions. i want you to take a look at all of the people on the panel and in your mind now through the visual communication you see only, can you identify the religious cultures of each of the people here? that's very important because it's a part of what we're going to try the talk about during our discussion. here's what we see, exactly what the truth is. now, let's meet our guest. >> i'm the vice president of the chapter of care, the
counsel on american relations as well as the president of fdaa. >> i'm the communications director of the association. >> i represent the community. >> i'm lindsey and i serve as chaplain for the jail. >> i'm veronica taylor and the reporter. >> thank you all for being here. the focus is religious freedom and policy. let's talk about the basics we learned. the notion of people being discriminated against because of discrimination of their religion on the job. >> i'm part of care and we hear a number of these cases and
we're often told that i didn't get a job and i believe it's because of discrimination or i lost my job as a result of this. you can hear in the bay area about a year ago we had a complaint from a woman who covers her head and she wears the head scarf and she was in the job were six months and a regional manager came to the store where she was working and said what she was wearing didn't meet the company dress code and she was let go. funny how it wasn't an issue for the first months. that is one of the many incidents we heard of regarding if attire and how it effects people in the work place. >> as we changed the audience before we started, what we see times isn't always what we are or what the expressions are. when you go to the jails, you have to take off the cross you're wearing now. tell us why.
>> i wear a cross. i'm an ordain minister, christian minister and if i want to talk about discrimination, women ministers sometimes have a little difficult time out out there in the world for being a woman. this cross i wore because it's made by inmates from plastic bags and it would be contraband. >> can they make you take it off? >> no. i wear a cross that the chain is breakable. inmates made this one and for them it is contraband because for them it doesn't break and they can't, it's beautiful. on the street people would love it. behind bars, not so good. >> you were talking also that certain expressions like people
who are christians, you see them in society and they're expected to we're what is normal for their religious culture. it's accepted and revered by some people. what's the experience for you? >> i can talk about my personal experience. looks can get you killed. one of her people were shot and killed after 911 because of his looks. personally, i have been living in burier for almost 20 years now. i've experienced racist comments. people have called me bin
laden, taliban, terrorist. >> all because you're trying to express yourself in a free society where you're allowed to do that. >> exactly. >> we were also talking about the expression issue and how people are uncomfortable. what are your thoughts on the personal impact? >> my thoughts are looks can get you killed. remember, that wasn't that long ago in this country where people looking like you or me would get killed based on how we look. that is not an excuse or shouldn't be a reason for us to change or how we express ourselves. it should be more of a chance for us to say listen, we are part of the american landscape. you have to accept us for who we are. >> although that is very difficult, let me bring in our reporter. when you were researching the story, what are some of the things you found? >> some of the things i found
in particular i called a few different places and said what is your policy when someone comes in and they're wearing a religious head covering? do you make them take them off and i get different answers. one of them said you have to take it off completely. you have to see your hair color even if it's not natural. the other one i was told is they have to hike it back just a little bit so you see a little bit of hair so if a cop looks at your i.d. they can tell it's you. the other one said no problem, whatever you come in wearing, that's okay. that's fine. >> people out there might hear what you just said and say that sounds reasonable, what's the problem. >> that brings up an interesting point. often this type of reaction stems from ignorance and i don't mean it in a mean spirited way but the three dmv's give you three different
answers. i have a cousin who wears a head scarf and she was driving and someone pulled up next to her and asked her to roll down her window and the person said go back to where you came from and she said fort collins, colorado because she was born and raised here. earlier you mentioned the fact that a roman catholic nunn will wear their thing but when a muslim woman wearing a head scarf it's extremism and it's interesting and disappointing. >> we are not well educated on the different cultures. we have freedom of religion in our constitutions and exercise it freely but where is the learning process taking place other than in the home and with family? i find that we have a beautifully diverse campus of
students from all religious cultures and ethnic and life style experiences and yet it is very difficult sometimes to get people to relax and to talk about the issues. do you understand what i'm saying? why are people so uncomfortable with religion? >> i'm going to come from two points of view. one is people who are incarcerated, we want to give them the beggest opportunity they have to express their religion. for example, i just got these beads approved for the facility. the first set that the chaplain brought me and said can you give these out? i wore them and broke them within an hour. so no, we have the fix that. there are limits. we have head scarfs. you can't do a full scarf like she has for obvious safety
reasons. so we work with the community to get the material and to get it to a length that wouldn't harm others. people don't won't to offend anybody. can i touch him? i mean there are some faiths that wouldn't shake hands with a woman, for example. we need to find other ways of meeting with each other. and yet in the jail or in the prison, everybody's brought together so how do we help them do that safely? >> in the academic setting there are classes. we teach one called the diversity and life styles in the media. students take it as an elective and it's not required. they start out being afraid. why do you think students start out a little tense and nervous
about talking about religion? >> i think it's because we want to stay in our comfort zone. we don't want to go outside of it and another part of it is i don't want to offend anybody and i'm sure nobody wants to. they don't want to branch out because they want to stay in their comfort zone and don't want to offend anybody. >> we don't want to offend anybody but that lack of openness and comfort to talk and learn is actually causing some concerns when people look at us. they see me and they see a guy who is african american but i'm also roman catholic and have done independent marriage ceremonies for my students with the understanding of my church. a lot of people didn't know that was possible. these are all the things we're learning about in our society that has a question, how do we get people to be more open to learning?
>> i think what she put in her comments, we are nervous, afraid . i love people to walk over the me and ask me why do i wear that and does the color mean anything and why do you have a long beard? why do you carry this bracelet? tell me about yourself. i love to share anything about myself. >> they might say we didn't know we could do that. we didn't know that would be appropriate. >> what i try to can if i'm walking down the street and somebody yells at me, taliban come here. learn about me and call me whatever you want to. >> that's the problem. we are relying on tv to tell us
how people are. people are watching thinking that's the way all muslims are. could you imagine if the way re- educate ourselves about the way people are is through tv? every mexican would be a gardener and every african american would be a drug dealer or gangbanger. if you want to get to know how people are get out and meet them. >> i'm ordained in the united church of christ and my church invited a group of muslims for thanksgiving service a few years ago. >> it wasn't me. >> no. we'll do that next time. we had one of our turkish friends talk about being the newest pilgrim to the country.
it opened up an opportunity for the church to meet people they would normally never meet and ask questions what's this and what does this mean and we met in the courtyard and had finger foods afterwards and so it goes both ways. sometimes i feel like you're always out there asking me about my faith and we're afraid to invite you in and say come, tell us about it. >> connect the two groups together. >> i think she's done a wonderful job. she got me involved with the jail inmates so i'm working as a chaplain with her and making sure the inmates meet our needs. there was an earlier point being discussed. people were in a place of worship, mosque, churches.
they are willing to learn. they are not, i hate to use the word problem, the issue is somebody who doesn't want to learn and trying to expand it to somebody, i'm not what you think i am. can you spend a few minutes with me? we can talk about it. i try telling them. what do you do with these people? >> you have to be patient. let me offer another way of learning that was challenging for some christian organizations belonged to a catholic church. they did something extraordinary a few years ago on the bulletin that they had they give out at the mass. they spelled out who we are and whose welcome in the church and those who were poor and rich and those who come from different religious cultures and those who are gay. can they
do that? is that allowed? of course, it's allowed. it's part of the expression. why don't religious organizations step up and put it out there. a t-shirt or sign? why not? >> not a bad idea. i get 50% of all proceeds though because it was my idea. >> it's a great idea. i think for a lot of the communities about whom we're speaking, we are first or second generation to this country. there's been that reluctance to go out there and stand on a mountain top and say hey, here's who i am and here's all about me. for a lot of us, our parents, generation, immigrants, we're trying to fit in and get a job
and get a roof over our heads and be seen as a valuable member of the community. you're not quiet at the level of feeling as comfortable inviting people at your home or going out and doing the type of activism or community building that one would do if they had a few generations in this country. i think for many people it's just a matter of getting to the point where they feel confident. maybe if they have an accent and maybe if this isn't their native country, they're not going to feel as comfortable doing that. >> that's where the immigrants need to connect with the long spending. >> sure. >> one of the first countries that acknowledged or accepted the american independence was
morocco. muslim slaves built the industry that this country's economy is based on. you got to connect with that. >> we were talking earlier about the salad bowl or the melting pot. have you thought about that? >> they're all the same or exactly alike but in actuality it's more like a salad bowl. we have each ethnicity represented in its own group and we have each culture represent represented. we're still different. >> i can't say how many times i've heard people say i'm tired of hearing about that melting
pot because it sounds like you want us to drain out who we are so we can become like everybody else and almost robotic. that's not what's intended. >> that's the strength of america. in france, their idea of integration is you give up who you are and become a frenchman. that's integration and that's why the immigrants of that country are not immigrating into that society where as in america, the way we see it is you bring who you are to the table and weave that into the fabric of what it means to be american and that beautiful tapestry is what makes america beautiful. that's what makes america great. >> enjoy the value of each group. in the diversity class when we talk about this, why don't we call it a buffet. we all like to go to buffets and try different things and we go back for more because we want to know more about the
taste, foods and culture. maybe that's the mind set change we can consider as well. let's take the serious tact now. we have airports who are very concerned about a tax on innocent -- about attacks on passengers. is it offensive to the point where you guys object? what are your thoughts on that? >> we were discussing that issue earlier on. you look at isreal. they don't have all these body scanners and pat downs at the airports. how do they handle it? the biggest security challenge no other country faces. why can't we learn from isreal? why do we have to invade privacy of people?
isreal had had a long history of living this and knowing the culture. they have a knowledge base we don't. >> that's why we should learn from them. what isreal has learned is racial profiling or physical profiling does not enhance security. it damages security. it says many false positives you get, you get more false negatives. the two incidents that happened in isreal were a blond haired blue eyed german and korean. that would be to by pass the profiling protocol. you have to have actual security. if i'm a terrorist, that's not the disguise i'm going to use. >> isreal gone in there and
they've got one or two airports they have to worry about and united states has a huge number. i hate the security thing. i hate going through it. i go through security every day at work and i have shoes that don't go off and all plastic clothes. you go to the airport and you're maybe the token mexican they're going to pull out or maybe i am or whatever. >> that's something we're going to have to follow up on because it's a continuing issue in our society. i want to thank each and every one of you for opening up the discussion and reminding the public it's okay and we can talk about these things in a reponessable educated approach and we've learned from each other. thank you for being here and thank you for joining us for